Proteas pummel New Zealand, cruise into semifinals
With their last-four spot secured, some of the pressure has been taken off Sunday’s clash with India
Pune — The Proteas drew a line through another unwanted World Cup streak, beating New Zealand by 190 runs and confirmed their spot in the semifinals with two round-robin matches to spare.
Temba Bavuma’s men produced a proficient display in the field in defence of another enormous target of 358, knocking over half of a very good New Zealand batting line-up by the 20th over in front of nearly 32,000 people here on Wednesday.
This win snapped a five-match winning run New Zealand had enjoyed against SA dating back to the 1999 World Cup, and came a few days after they had also ended a seven-match losing streak to Pakistan in ICC events.
By now it should be clear that asking SA to bat first is not the right option for the opposition captain, a lesson Tom Latham learnt, just as Jos Buttler did in Mumbai and Dasum Shanaka in Delhi.
The Proteas have looked at their most vulnerable when chasing, suffering their only loss while doing so against the Netherlands, and then badly mismanaging what should have been a comfortable pursuit in Chennai against Pakistan, before stumbling over the line thanks to Keshav Maharaj and the tail.
Here, they were back in their comfort zone, generously provided by Latham after he won the toss and chose to bowl. The Proteas set about implementing that familiar blueprint: laying a solid foundation via the top three batters, and then letting that potent middle order do its thing.
However, this time Rassie van der Dussen decided to hang around a bit longer, showing he too could blast sixes and perhaps remind the franchise T20 leagues around the world that he was deserving of some of the millions the likes of Aiden Markram, David Miller and Heinrich Klaasen have earned in the past year.
Joking aside, the Proteas are on a mission at this tournament, and Wednesday saw Quinton de Kock produce yet another prodigious performance that saw him register a fourth century at this year’s tournament, and at the same time became the first SA batter to score 500 runs at a single tournament.
De Kock is putting together a heck of a goodbye tour to the ODI format, and while he may not say so, the fact that once this tournament ends he won’t have to think about playing 50-over cricket again has probably freed his mind.
He made 114 on Wednesday, sharing a 200-run second wicket partnership with Van der Dussen, who top scored with 133 — hitting five sixes in the process. There were concerns in some circles that SA should have been more aggressive in the first half of their innings, but that doesn’t give sufficient credit to New Zealand’s ground fielding and the accuracy of their bowling, particularly Trent Boult.
The loss of Matt Henry to a hamstring injury midway through his sixth over was a major strategic blow. Latham had to get overs out of James Neesham, who conceded 69 runs in 5.3 overs.
SA smashed 202 runs in the last 20 overs, that blueprint very much to the fore.
The damage it does on the scoreboard is one thing, but it also strikes a psychological hammer blow. From an expected required rate of around six an over, New Zealand were staring at seven when the innings started.
Marco Jansen once more demonstrated what a devastating operator he is becoming with the new ball, dismissing Devon Conway with one that bounced steeply which the left-hander edged to second slip, where Markram took a good diving catch.
The new star of this tournament, Rachin Ravindra, lasted 16 balls before top-edging a hook to fine leg where Gerald Coetzee took an easy catch.
It was a procession thereafter, with Kagiso Rabada, who once again bowled a sublime spell, and Coetzee each taking a wicket while Keshav Maharaj helped himself to four wickets.
With the final four spot secured, some of the pressure has been taken off Sunday’s clash with India. The hype has already started building for that encounter, but SA can approach it in a relaxed frame of mind, for they are as secure in their game plan as they are in themselves.
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